A former Tesla employee won a $1 million award from the company after an arbitrator concluded that the company failed to prevent its supervisors from considering him a racial slur, Bloomberg Law reported.
Melvin Berry, was hired at the Tesla plant in Alameda, Calif., in 2015. He said a supervisor called him Negro, then retaliated by forcing him to work longer hours and do increasingly physically demanding work when Berry confronted him. Tesla denied the charges.
Referee Elaine Rushing said in a May 12 ruling that Tesla was responsible for the harassment Berry described. “The case law is clear that in an instance of a supervisor directing the word Negro to a subordinate is sufficient to constitute serious harassment,” Rushing wrote.
Tesla argued that there was no written evidence that Berry had complained about supervisors calling him Negro, noting that he left the company voluntarily, as shown by the arbitrator’s decision.
Arbitration procedures between employers and employees are generally kept confidential, but Berry’s attorney filed a standard petition in court to enforce the arbitrator’s order, which disclosed his decision. Attorney Lawrence Organ said Berry would not file another legal action if Tesla paid the damages.
Berry is not the first worker to allege racism at Tesla’s Fremont factory. In 2017, former assembly worker Marcus Vaughn sued Tesla saying the company had not investigated his written complaint that co-workers and supervisors called him black.
Vaughn called the Fremont factory a “hotbed of racist behavior.” Tesla said in a statement at the time that Vaughn’s lawsuit was a “hotbed of disinformation.” In April, an Alameda County judge rejected the company’s request to bar Vaughn from seeking class action status for the lawsuit.